by Max Barry

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DispatchAccountDrama

by The Unified Federal Provinces of Some People on Planet Arcadia. . 4 reads.

ㄒ卄 乇 卄丨ᗪᗪ乇几 ㄥ卂Ҝ乇 爪 卂丂 丂卂匚 尺乇

The stars shined above the surface of Hidden Lake. The occasional bird flew across the sky, carried by the easterly winds of Comita, which was a place that happened to be some lines just drawn out on a GeoMap of the planet. Fir trees and the mottled dirt path lit up as APC headlights struck against them, their large tires treading over the path. They were bound for B5, the fifth base in the forested Comita. The convoy had traveled far through the provinces, which are much like Comita and more.

GySgt. Howard "Brusher" Powell rode atop one such APC, the Fall Ghost, as it rumbled over the dirt with the convoy. He held the grip of his MA40 service rifle in one hand, holding the side bar in the other. He admired the night sky during the ride in, save for one instance just a minute ago where a rock shot up and hit the shell of his helmet and ricocheted onto his shoulder, piercing the skin some. He covered the wound with his elbow and glared over at the troopers in the bed of the M-750 in front of the APC as several of them chuckled amongst themselves.

Powell polarized his CH252's visor and rolled his sleeves down, moving his rifle to each hand as he did. Unlike the marines, the army troopers didn't wear armor on their forearms. Ah, well, he thought. Nobody except the marine shock troops had temperature regulation anyway. Least i'm not dropping from the sky, risking death. Most shock troopers would probably agree with that sentiment.

Suddenly, the shaking stopped and the growl of the engines slowed to a low rumble as the front of the convoy reached B5, bringing every vehicle to a stop. The white- and yellow-lit gates opened to reveal the courtyard and motor pool. A flavored army trooper happened to be the gate operator. His nametag read Houck, a German surname. Powell, as well as several others, nodded as they passed. Houck gave every trooper individual jives.

B5 was a 9-structure walled-in compound with defenses placed around in several strategic locations. A couple snipers were perched in trees, and the road was barred by concrete barricades. The structures inside were the field office, radio post, 2 barracks, the mess hall, 2 storage sheds, and the infirmary, which were all connected by a small dirt path loosely marked out with a shovel. The last area, the motor pool, was simply a few large car ports and a garage. Outside the walls was a 25- by 50-acre Quickfarm for growing food in a controlled environment.

A group of troopers walked across the yard as the convoy drove through with the equipment for B5 camp. Powell overheard them speaking about sightings of planetary natives, dubbed the Huayuans, but "nothing to best our firepower". He watched them enter the field office to speak to B5's First Lieutenant and Captain, presumably to voice their sightings. As those who were riding with the convoy began unloading, he got off and headed towards the office to hear out their tale, possible about "the unnatural", which was apparently a rumor floating around the provinces.

The electronic door quietly buzzed as he entered, but they had been conversing already, drowning out the door sound. Powell observed the room as they talked. The officer's quarters' door was ajar, with a radio transmission coming through it. It wasn't important, so he kept his radio on the 'off' channel. As he continued looking, he spotted red lights flashing on the shelves. He dismissed it as the building's electrical system, as he was no longer investigating - The conversation had turned darker. They had began talking about multiple deaths and even more injuries on the planet. They were speaking about... a radio? He then realized the radio from the officer room was louder and bursting with different sounds. He was caught between the 6 talking and the transmission until the radio went dead. Those in the other room went silent and turned toward the quarters.

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An explosion rocked the C4 mountain compound in the Lepasolt province. They had been overrun just minutes ago, not expecting to see "whatever this was" according to a soldier. The attackers hadn't even appeared on satellite imagery, though this may have been because video feed was not being used at the time. Rifle rounds cracked against walls as the things invaded the compound. They would eventually fall, but they were most definitely not humans. They actually resembled things that had been seen constructed around the planet - Humanoid figures, but disfigured, with some to no end. On occasion, they didn't even die from a reasonable amount of firepower.

Post command was attempting to get ahold of outside forces, but it won them no favor with luck. After trying and failing so many times, all personnel are ordered into the buildings so a complete lockdown could be initiated. Despite this, most marksmen are lost to the invaders, not being able to get inside. The underground tunnels linked the buildings together, and the facility power was still on. Escape was still futile, however, because the vehicle bay had been captured by "them".

The troopers regroup in the command post. During lockdowns, windows were sealed shut, so the only way to accurately see outside was through cameras. As they viewed the cameras and watched the humanids walk around, ventilation was brought up, even though it was not an issue - Fresh air vented through the buildings and into the tunnels from building rooftops. In hearing this, concerns are relieved. After the troopers calm a little, a panic alert is sent out in failed attempts to get back-up or some kind of evacuation.

A similar incident to the C4 assault occurs in other compounds in Lepasolt. The riverine base, Lepasolt's river link in a chain of river bases through the provinces, is critically destroyed by gas explosions and fallen towers. Many deaths occur, especially in Lepasolt. After the fall of the B and C regions, the lack of radio contact from the regions is recognized by only bases on the planet.

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As the troopers looked at Gunnery Sergeant Powell, gunfire is heard outside the field office. They all instinctively look in that direction. The base lockdown procedure is activated by the First Lieutenant, and the troopers run out to figure out the situation. The 2 officers arm themselves and go to the roof with Powell

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